Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Incorrect of the Political

The following is experimental fiction only (you've heard of irony, right?): Out of the blue, and somewhat abruptly, a young boy from wealthy parentage and a privileged background was told by his liberal-minded mother not to walk down a certain street all alone in a crowded area of town, so he decided to ask an obvious question: "Why not? Are there bad people there who will hurt me?" - "It's not that," the mother replied vaguely, "it's just that I'd rather have you walk down a different street." - "But mother!" the boy protested,"I can't think of a quicker way to go to the Children's Museum. So why can't I go there if I promise to walk fast?" - "I know, I know," the mother said, stalling for time. "I know it sounds harsh, but I want you to be safe, that's all." "But if anyone tries to be mean to me, I'll just tell them that I'm on their side. Because you always say that we're on the side of the people who live on the not-so-nice streets even though we live on a much nicer street, and we live in a very nice apartment and can see Central Park from our 10th floor suite.  Isn't that what you always say, mom?" "Yes, yes, that's right. We are on their side. We DO want the best for them..." "Then what's the problem?" "Well, you see, dear, despite the fact that we try our best not to flaunt our advantages, sometimes we get mistaken for the evil trolls who (by their insane political backwardness) are making life so difficult for the people on the not-so-nice-streets and then they look at us and get angry, and they end up resenting us just as much - if that makes any sense?" "Oh. We kind of look like the bad guys, the evil trolls - even though we dress and talk much better than them." "Yes - unfortunately - no matter how hard we try - even though we smile more and show real compassion, andvote the right way in every single election and show solidarity for the downtrodden masses at rallies and fund-raisers and every charity-event under the sun - they just think that we're not with them - because we enjoy such amazing benefits, because we have good jobs, and nice houses and condos, and 5th avenue apartments, and because we take long vacations, and have reliable health care plans, and advanced educational degrees and because we're culturally literate and we never shop at Walmart - not that there's anything wrong with that..." "And do the evil trolls (who are politically backward) hate us as well for having these amazing benefits?" the boy shrieked, almost breaking into tears. "I'm afraid so, dear, the backward evil trolls and upwardly-mobile evil trolls (those with a special bug up their bonnets!) despise and revile us very much and resent us, while the wealthy evil trolls only think of us as soft and foolish. The world isn't very fair, is it? We just can't win..." And the mother herself began to cry and wandered about aimlessly for some minutes while questioning her basic assumptions, until finally finding her bearings, she began to lead her child down the forbidden street....

Innocence Learns from Experience

I - Hey "E". I'm having one of my panic attacks again.  I'm getting worried about people again...

E - People again, huh?

I - Well, if not a full blown panic attack, then at least kinda nervous.

E- Sure.

I - You don't think I'm nuts.

E - No. Just incredibly naive. Please continue.

I - It's not everyone. It's certain types of people.

E - Certain types of people? Let me guess, you mean like dangerous criminals and other miscreants?

I - Yeah - sort of. But I'm really getting worried about the average young person out there...

E - Yes. They do pose a problem don't they? Average young people. Not the stand-outs, the mediocre ones. An annoying bunch - not like you and me. But....what can one do? That's why they invented b-movies, I suppose...

I - But you know I've been thinking about how, like, if certain "average young people" who are already, shall we say, a bit high-strung to begin with...well, let's say one of them decides to get "high."

E - Perish the thought! High on drugs, you mean, not high on life?

I - I mean high as in they took a weird pill or smoked a banned substance?

E - We're talking beyond clove cigarettes here.

I - Oh - way beyond.

E - Okay, so we've got high-strung person who is high on crystal-meth. Then what?

I - Well let's say that same average, high-strung drug-user goes back to his posse - I mean - a group of his closest peers...

E - Yes I know!

I - And some of these same friends who already can't tells the difference between fantasy and reality - start to unveil this stash of weapons that they just happened to find.

E- You mean plastic squirt guns, I hope...

I - No real ones. Switchblades or -

E - What are we talking here - West Side Story?

I - Not just switchblades  then.

E - Yeah.. so like where did they find them?

I - Find what?

E - The weapons!

I - In somebody's father's closet....I guess....

E - (somewhat incredulously) - Okay? And? What are you getting at?

I - Well and then just imagine that some of these intoxicated young people (everyone smoking meth at this point) now start to mess around with these dangerous weapons at which point another one of the hooligans hatches the crazy ideal of dressing up in para-military garb and egging the others on to go jump in a car and -

E - So you're saying we're got a carload of drugged up teenagers with weapons driving around looking to get their kicks...

I - I'm just sayin' it could happen. Don't you think, the police should be on the lookout for this sort of thing?

E - I hate to break it to you kid  - but stuff like that happens all the time.

I - No way!!!

E - Way. That's life in big city.

I - But E. If we don't keep an eye out for this kind of behavior, I mean, things could get out of hand.

E - With young people you mean?

I - Sure. I mean young people grow up.

E - And some of them form dangerous habits - right?

I - Yes, I for one am concerned.

E - Me too, kid. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm wanted back on planet Earth...

Thursday, September 20, 2012

On the Road by Jack Keroac

....started reading On the Road by Jack Keroac at the Curtis Memorial Library on a whim...I made it to chapter 3 and by then, Jack had already met and parted (temporarily) with Dean Moriarty, then made it past Chicago into Iowa or Nebraska (was it?), but was still desperately trying to get to Denver, while debating whether to sample Ogden, Utah, before meeting up with one of his many mad/crazy compadres in good ol' San Fran...eating ice cream and apple pie all the while...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Short Stories of Katherine Mansfield

For starters, check out "Revelations" - "The Doll's House" - "Something Childish but very Natural" - "Prelude" - "The Daughters of the Late Colonel" - "The Garden Party" - "Miss Brill" - "An Ideal Family"- "The Canary" - and "A Dill Pickle."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Ghost of George Carlin

What can you say about George Carlin, the still-recently-deceased (2008 was it?) larger than life presence whose spirit lingers on with us in so many ways...a brilliant quick-witted, lover of language (and de-constructor of curse words in particular), a social commentator and former hippie who pressed the envelope back in the day after many stints on the Ed Sullivan show; in recent years, a misanthrope and much-needed curmudgeonly sort of fellow, the "old guy" with a chip on his shoulder, someone prone to go apoplectic at a moment's notice if someone allowed logic and reason to slide out of the conversation, someone not prone to leaps of faith of any kind, a critic of politics who thought America was owned by greedy corporate mandarins, a radical skeptic, non-believer, non-participant, atheist/agnostic with regard to God and religion, a quintessentially lapsed Catholic, embittered but with a heart of gold...George was "scary funny" in a lot of ways...he wanted to lead us to the edge of the cliff and make us take a look at the abyss...I couldn't always follow him as far as he wanted us to go...He was "out there" on a number of levels, a definite gadfly, but apparently loving life in the midst of all his comical muckraking and shooting arrows at the overlords of the's hard not to admire him for being an original...

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Flying Under the Radar...

Every once in a while, I begin to wonder about all the people and places that never get mentioned on the evening news, which takes on an even more surreal irony when we consider how few people still obtain their daily dose of headlines from the traditional television outlets. Whether it's the nightly new summaries or the morning shows, I can't help but notice a vast reservoir of missing stories, vast regions and populations that the anchors have nothing to tell us about. How can that be so? You'd think that after five minutes of national politics, five minutes of random international news and the latest round-up of celebrity gossip and that much-anticipated, hourly health tip, there would be time for something more - not just a cloying, glib, feel-good puff piece to balance out the tabloid fodder. You'd think. But hey - the formula brings in ratings and the formula's only been like that for the past 40 years or so. And besides, oh most loyal drone-like traditional news junkie, do you ever remember anything "big" or "officially noteworthy" ever happening - aside from unforeseen weather events - in states like South Dakota, Nebraska, Montana, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Delaware, Rhode Island, North Dakota, Kentucky, West Texas, Mississippi, Maine, Vermont, Idaho, Ohio, Oregon, Nevada or Kansas? Having lived in certain remote locales myself, I know the feeling of being overlooked or at best, referred to "in passing" and it occurs to me that this neglect is a major factor in the polarization that is currently crippling our politics... Because believe me, people in the "fly-over states" feel it - that sense of being overlooked, marginalized, forgotten, ignored, ridiculed, condescended to... Sure, the news is great at covering a hard-times economy in various places (when plants close down, when towns go bust), but there are many other pieces to the puzzle that go under-reported: i.e. outsourcing, shifts in demographics and employment, job training or lack thereof, the state of our schools, health care, hospitals, outpatient care, medicine and the elderly, mental health, prisons, youth crime, the justice system, the ongoing housing crisis, the silent traumas faced by military families,  marriage and courtship, divorce, child-rearing, daycare, today's teenagers, science, the arts, guns, religion, nutrition, the state of Main Street U.S.A....

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Final Soliloquy of Wallace Stevens...

"Light the first light of evening, as in a room
In which we rest and, for small reason, think
The world imagined is the ultimate good.
This is, therefore, the intensest rendezvous.
It is in that thought that we collect ourselves,
Out of all the indifferences, into one thing:
Within a single thing, a single shawl
Wrapped tightly round us, since we are poor, a warmth,
A light, a power, the miraculous influence..."
- from "Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour"

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Castle by Franz Kafka

The greatness of this unfinished novel continues to amaze me. This is a book with the strangest of ripple effects, generally positive, although I don't know of any imitator who is up to par with Kafka.